It’s been months since it first began. On May 2nd 2023, over 11,000 screenwriters went on strike. And on July 14h 2023, actors have almost unanimously decided to go on strike as well. After failing to come to an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), The Writers Guild of America (WGA) decided to strike in support of better labor conditions for its writers.
Here are some of the issues the WGA has with the current labor conditions:
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but shows typically have much fewer episodes per season than they used to. So instead of the 20+ episode-per-season structure that TV series used to follow, we are now seeing that most shows are producing a measly 8 to 10 episodes per season. While this could help to put a limit on filler episodes, this is horrible for screenwriters.
Writers having less episodes to write means that there is less money to be made. Studios have even been cutting down the amount of people in the writer’s room, which equals less opportunity for writers. The WGA is fighting for there to be a minimum number of writers for a fair minimum amount of time on all shows.
Unfair compensation is one of the biggest issues that screenwriters are picketing over. A few ways writers in Hollywood can get paid is by selling their scripts, revising other scripts and obtaining residuals. Residuals are periodic payments that writers can receive for their work rerunning on TV channels or streaming.
However, writers are receiving smaller and smaller residuals due to their work living on streaming platforms. At the moment, streaming services have much different policies and regulations than broadcasting networks.
Services like Netflix don’t technically have reruns since their shows are on the platform 24/7. And with the rising popularity of streaming platforms making their own original content, many shows today have never even aired on cable television.
This means that writers are only getting paid a set amount of episodes, and they don’t continue to gain any earnings from shows that have amassed huge popularity and earnings. The WGA is pushing for better residuals and higher minimum salaries, arguing that writers should be fairly compensated for their work regardless of the platform it’s on.
AI is at the forefront of many issues right now, and writers have major concerns of being replaced by artificial intelligence. The growing advancements in AI are causing quite the stir in every aspect. AI can be used to replicate the likeness of anyone it's trained to. It can also generate new scripts, essays, speeches and more by analyzing the tons of data that is already in existence.
This means that singers’ voices can be used to make songs that they've never recorded, for example. And that feature length screenplays can be generated by artificial intelligence in a matter of minutes. This can potentially change everything we know about creativity, and jeopardize our right to our own intellectual property.
To protect themselves from job obscurity and much more, writers are arguing for AI to only be used as a tool of guidance in the entertainment industry.
So Why are Actors Striking Now?
Some actors and actresses were already striking in solidarity with writers before the official Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike. Fran Drescher, Mayim Bialik, and Pete Davidson are amongst the actors that outwardly boycotted in support of the WGA strike. But now, the entire Hollywood actors’ union has gone on strike due to similar disparities with AMPTP.
Actors are demanding fair pay, job security, and fair treatment for writers and themselves as well. This is the first time that writers AND actors have been on strike together since the 1960s.
The strike for actors means that they can still act, just not for companies under the AMPTP (which is a LOT of companies). They also cannot promote any work made under the AMPTP. This, along with the writers’ strike could send the entertainment industry into chaos.
So What Does This Mean Overall?
Overall, this double strike is going to take a toll on everyone in the entertainment industry. Late night shows will continue to air reruns due to there being no staff to write their daily episodes.
Publicists will probably not be promoting any of their clients’ work for as long as the strike continues. Stage crews, costume designers, and other hands-on workers behind the cameras will more than likely be out of a job for a while as well. This may cause economic problems for places like California and New York.
We as viewers might not be getting access to upcoming anticipated movies and shows. Shows like Abbott Elementary and House of Dragon will be postponed until further notice. And who knows how many potential blockbusters will be delayed or scrapped due to the strike.
Hopefully, the WGA and the SAG-AFTRA can come to an agreement with the AMPTP soon.
Editor's note: You can support the creative professionals affected by the strikes by donating to the Entertainment Community Fund (formerly known as The Actors Fund) on their website here.